Walmart-subcontracted warehouse workers have filed a petition to add the retail giant as a defendant in an ongoing federal wage theft lawsuit. If the petition is successful, it would help the efforts of organized labor to punish Walmart for alleged abuses, as well as establishing its responsibility over the actions of its contractors and subcontractors.
The wage theft class action lawsuit could involve up to 1,800 workers in Southern California, reports The Nation. Workers from three warehouses already brought charges against the retailer to the California Department of Labor Standards last year.
Workers allege that they work exclusively for Walmart and each of the subcontractors that have hired them are employed by Walmart contractor Schneider Logistics.
Until now, only Walmart’s subcontractors have been accused in court of doing things like shorting workers on pay, making them work in substandard conditions, and not giving them their required breaks. The Huffington Post notes that Michael Rubin, the workers’ lawyer, stated Friday:
“Walmart’s name does not appear on any of these workers paychecks, and the Walmart logo does not appear on the t-shirts they’re required to wear. But it has become increasingly clear that the ultimate liability for these workplace violations rests squarely on the shoulders of Walmart.”
Worker advocates have been arguing throughout the case that Walmart, as the top company in the contract chain, is morally responsible for the working conditions at its subcontractors’ warehouses, because its goods pass through the site.
They hope to prove, by bringing Walmart into the lawsuit as a defendant, that the company is both legally and financially responsible for what its subcontractors do. One plaintiff, David Acosta, spoke in Spanish during a call with reporters on Friday, saying:
“I know that Walmart is responsible for all of this, even though they say they have nothing to do with us. The boxes say Walmart, the containers say Walmart — everything belongs to Walmart.”